Remembered in Egypt


On 29 March, the Defence Office at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, Cairo, remembered F/O Vlastimil Skákal, when they visited his grave. He was a Czechoslovak who served in the RAF during WW2 and in 2005 died in Cairo.

_______________________________________________________________

Vlastimil Skákal was born 10 June 1919 in Cairo, Egypt.  His father Oldřich Skákal was originally from Černilov in the Hradec Králov region of Czechoslovakia, and had settled in Egypt in 1903. Together with his brother, they founded a successful artistic blacksmith and locksmith company.

In 1939, Vlastimil was a student in Paris, and on learning that Czechoslovak residents in France or Frenchmen of Czechoslovak descent were being accepted into the Czechoslovak Army in Exile, he applied to the Czechoslovak Consul in Paris in August to help and was informed that recruitment into a Czechoslovak Army in Exile would begin at the end of September. On 19 October he enlisted into the Czechoslovak Army at Versailles and was assigned to the 11th Company of the 1st Czechoslovak Infantry Division, at Agde, in which the organisation, equipment, and armaments were French. On 20.12.39 he was posted, as a Cadet, to the French Cavalry Academy in Saumur, about 160 miles West of Paris. Following the German invasion of France on 10 May 1940, and the subsequent capitulation on 22 June 1940, the Czechoslovak Army to England through the port of Séte in Southern France.

For Vlastimil, he was evacuated on the Mohamed Ali el Kebir which departed on 26.06.40, arriving at Liverpool on 07.07.40. Initially, the evacuated the Czechoslovak military were at Cholmondeley where Vlastimil was assigned to the Czechoslovak Mixed Brigade.

Vlastimil Skákal, British Army

On 12.12.41. he was accepted into the RAF VR and posted to the Czechoslovak Depot at RAF Wilmslow for training. He was selected for aircrew training and on 07.02.41. was posted to No 1 Elementary Air Navigation School [No 1 EANS], Eastbourne, for a training course in navigation. Two months later, he was posted to No 10 Air Observers School ( No 10 AOS), at Dumfries, Scotland. His next posting, on 22.04.42, was to 1429 Czechoslovak Operational Training Flight [1429 COTF], at RAF Thornaby-on-Tees, where he attended Course 12 and was a member of crew 24, consisting of F/Sgt HAERING Rudolf DFM, Sgt SKÁKAL Vlastimil, Sgt KAŠPAR Václav, Sgt JAROŠ Štěpán and Sgt FRANKO Josef. On 01.09.42. he was posted as a navigator to 311 Sqn. who were deployed in RAF Bomber Command stationed and stationed at East Wretham and equipped with Wellington twin-engined bomber aircraft. In Spring 1943, 311 Sqn was transferered to RAF Coastal Command and later that year re-equipped with long-range four-engined Liberator aircraft. On 22.2.44. he was commissioned at the rank of P/O, on 17.07.44. he was promoted to the rank of F/O. On 09.01.45 he was posted to 105 OTU for retraining for RAF Transport Command duties. His final RAF posting was on 17.04.45 when he went 246 Sqn RAF Transport Command.

He returned to Czechoslovakia on 04.10.45. and when demobilised from the Czechoslovak AIr Force, he returned to Egypt and was involved in export/import businesses between the two countries. After the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in February 1948, he joined the Transakta office in the Commercial Section of the Czechoslovak Embassy in Cairo where he remained until his retirement.

He died in Cairo on 10.11. 2005, aged 86.

_______________________________________________________________

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Zivotni pout pilota Karla Knaifla

Životní pouť pilota Karla Knaifla



Jeden ze zapomenutých…

od

Jan Valíček




Karel Knaifl (17. května 1914 Hořice – 24. července 1988 Pardubice) byl bojový pilot, který sloužil v období 2. světové války u Royal Air Force. Vojenskou službu nastoupil v roce 1936 ve vojenském leteckém učilišti v Prostějově, kde byl vyškolen jako polní pilot. V letectvu Československé armády zůstal až do jejího rozpuštění v roce 1939. Začátkem května 1939 opustil území protektorátu a dne 5. května 1939 byl již presentován u československé vojenské jednotky v Krakově. Odtud byl lodí odeslán do Francie a dne 9 . června 1939 podepsal pětiletý závazek do cizinecké legie. Pěchotní výcvik prodělal v Sidi-Bel-Abes v Africe. Po vyhlášení války 4. září 1939 byl přeřazen na leteckou základnu Ouargla v Africe jako pilot a záhy přeložen k leteckému pluku 101 v Toulouse jako bombardovací pilot.

Po porážce Francie odjel do Anglie, kde byl 26. července 1940 byl zařazen do RAF a zaškolován na britských letadlech. 23. dubna 1941 byl přidělen k 311. čsl. bombardovací peruti jako bojový pilot. Prvního operačního letu se zúčastnil dne 22. srpna 1941 jako druhý pilot při náletu na přístav Le Havre. 29. prosince 1941 byl přeložen ke 138. britské letecké peruti, v níž se mimo jiné podílel na dopravě leteckých výsadků Bioscop, Bivouac, Steel, Intrasitive a Tin nad území protektorátu. Po odchodu od 138. perutě působil až do konce války jako pilotní instruktor na různých místech ve Velké Británii a v Kanadě.

V srpnu 1945 se vrátil do ČSR a stal se učitelem praktického létání v pilotní škole III v Olomouci velitelem pilotní školy, v průběhu roku 1948 byl jejím velitelem. V roce 1949 byl jako důstojník z povolání propuštěn z československé armády, za použití agenta kontrarozvědky obviněn z protistátní činnosti a ve vykonstruovaném procesu odsouzen. Byl vězněn do roku 1952. Poté pracoval jako dělník a byl částečně rehabilitován. K 1. únoru 1964 byl povýšen na majora v záloze, ale návrat do armády mu nebyl povolen. Pracoval převážně na řadových místech v různých podnicích (STS Hradec Králové-Kukleny, JZD Všestary, Kovošrot Hradec Králové, Prefa Rosice nad Labem – tam pracoval až do odchodu do důchodu).

Byl vyznamenán mnoha československými a spojeneckými vojenskými vyznamenáními. Zemřel dne 24. července 1988 v Pardubicích.

V uznání zásluh v boji proti nepříteli v rámci rehabilitace vojáků západního odboje za 2. světové války byl rozkazem ministra obrany ČSFR č. 0104 čl. 80 dnem 1. června 1991 jmenován do hodnosti plukovníka in memoriam.

Publisher:
Vydavatel
Jan Valíček
ISBN:978-80-270-4293-7
Format:
Počet stran
A4 paperback, 74 pages, colour, black & white photos and illustration.
A4 vazba brožovaná, 74 stran, Barevné a černobílé fotografie a ilustrace.
Language:
Jazyk
Czech
česky
Published:
Publikováno
2018
Price:
Cena
325 Kč
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Nieuwe Niedorp excavation


Odkrývání Wellingtonu T2990 v Neiuwe Niedorp

A recent initiative by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior for the excavation of some thirty WW2 aircraft crash sites, in Holland, in a final endeavour to recover the remains of airmen in those aircraft. Within the top six of those sites is the field grave of 311 Sqn Wellington KX-T, T2990, at Nieuwe Niedorp where the remains of possibly five of its crew who are believed to have been in the aircraft when it was shot down on the night of 22/23 June 1941.

Současná iniciativa holandského Ministerstva vnitra zaměřená na vykopávky na cca třiceti místech havarií letounů ze druhé světové války dosáhla závěrečné fáze – vyzvednutí ostatků letců v těchto strojích. Mezi nejdůležitějšími šesti místy je polní hrob posádky 311. perutě, Wellingtonu KX-T T2990 v Neiuwe Neidorp. Zde zřejmě leží ostatky pěti členů jeho posádky, která byla sestřelena v noci z 22. na 23. června 1941.

In mid-2020, nearly eighty years after T2990 had crashed, a preliminary radar survey by the Dutch authorities showed that the aircraft is clearly visible and so the chance that the remains of one or more crew members will be recovered during the recovery is very high.

Ve dvacátých letech jednadvacátého století, téměř osmdesát let po havárii T2990, ukázal předběžný radarový vedený holandskými úřady, že letoun je velmi dobře identifikovatelný a je velká naděje na to, že ostatky jednoho nebo i více členů posádky budou vyzdviženy. Již bylo vydáno potřebné povolení k jejich vyzvednutí a nashromážděny potřebné finance.

With recovery permissions now granted, and finance in place, excavation will commence in May 2021, in an attempt to recover the remains of its crew and finally provide closure for their families.

Práce s tímto cílem začnou v květnu 2021 a očekává se, že pro rodiny letců konečně poskytnou podklady k uzavření této havárie.

_______________________________________________________________

311 Sqn Wellington bomber.
Bombardér Wickers Wellington 311. perutě.

On the night of 22 June 1941, 9 Wellingtons from 311 Sqn took off from East Wretham to join small force of 45 Wellingtons and 25 Hampdens for a bombing raid on Bremen. Take-off’s for the 311 Sqn aircraft were between 23:15 to 23:42. One of these Wellingtons was KX-T T2990, taking off at 23:16. Captained by F/Sgt Vilém Bufka with F/Sgt Alois Rozum. P/O Vilém Konštacký, P/O Leonard Smrček, Sgt Jan Hejna and Sgt Karel Valach for his crew.

22. června 1941 odstartovalo z RAF East Wretham devět Wellingtonů 311. perutě, aby se přidaly k malému svazu dalších čtyřiceti pěti Wellingtonů a dvaceti pěti Hampdenů k útoku na Brémy. Čas vzletu byl pro stroje 311. perutě určen mezi 23:15 a 23:42. Jedním z těchto Wellingtonů byl stroj KX-T T2990 startující ve 23:16. Jeho kapitánem byl F/Sgt Vilém Bufka, dalšími členy posádky pak F/Sgt Rozum, P/O Konštacký, P/O Smrček, Sgt Hejna a Sgt Valach.

They successfully reached their target and dropped their bombs. However, shortly after 01:15, on their return flight back to East Wretham, they were approaching Lemmer, in Eastern Holland, at about 13,000 feet when they were detected by a German radar station located at Medemblik, on the western side of the Zuider Zee (now Lake IJsselmeer). The radar operator radioed through to a Luftwaffe Me-110 night fighter from JG 4/NJG1 that was patrolling in that sector for returning Allied bombers and gave it an intercept course for the Wellington.

Úspěšně dosáhli cíle a shodili bomby. Nicméně, krátce po 01:15, cestou zpět na East Wretham, když se ve výšce 13.000 stop blížili k Lemmeru ve východním Holandsku, byli zachyceni německým radarem umístěným v Medelbliku, na západní straně Zuider Zee (dnes jezero Ijsselmeer). Operátor radaru vyslal souřadnice Wellingonu ke stroji Me-110, nočnímu stíhači Luftwaffe od JG 4/NJG1, který hlídkoval v daném sektoru a jehož úkolem bylo zachytávat vracející se spojenecké bombardéry.

Luftwaffe Me 110 Nightfighter.
Noční stíhač Luftwaffe, Me 110.

The Me-110, Captained by Oberleutnant Prinz Egmont zur Lippe-Weissenfeld and his radio operator Unteroffizier Jozef Rennette located with the Wellington and made two unsuccessful approaches to it. On the third approach, at about 02:14, the Me-110 made its attack and open-fired on the Wellington which was hit and its starboard engine caught fire causing it to spiral down, diving into the soft ground of a field at Nieuwe Niedorp.

Kapitánem Me-110 byl Oberleutnant Prinz Egmont zur Lippe-Weissenfeld, jeho radiooperátor Unteroffizier Jozef Rennette bombardér lokalizoval a provedli nejdříve dva neúspěšné útoky. Při třetím útoku, přibližně v 02:14 ráno, Wellington zasáhl, zapálil mu pravý motor a bombardér se dostal do spirály. Dopadl na měkkou polní půdu v Nieuwe Niedorp.

F/Sgt Vilém Bufka

Only one of the crew, F/Sgt Bufka, was able to parachute out of the doomed aircraft. On landing, he broke both his legs and was captured by the Germans. After a period in hospital for medical treatment for his legs, he spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War.

Ze zničeného stroje se podařilo na padáku uniknout pouze jednomu členu posádky. Byl jím F/Sgt. Bufka. Při dopadu na zem si zlomil obě nohy a následně upadl do německého zajetí. Nejdříve prodělal léčbu zlomenin a po uzdravení strávil zbytek války jako válečný zajatec.

At that time the field, a former muddy seabed, still had very soft ground and in 1941 the aircraft was considered not recoverable as it had dived deeply into the ground and the site became a field grave for the five missing crew, F/Sgt Alois Rozum, P/O Vilém Konštacký, P/O Leonard Smrček, Sgt. Jan Hejna and Sgt Karel Valach believed to have been in the aircraft when it crashed.

V době havárie byla na poli, dřívějším mořské dnu, velmi měkká půda a v roce 1941 bylo vyproštění stroje prakticky nemožné. Zabořil se velmi hluboko a pole se tak stalo hrobem ostatních pěti letců posádky – F/Sgt. Aloise Rozuma, P/O Viléma Konštackého , P/O Leonarda Smrčka, Sgt. Jana Hejny a Sgt Karla Valacha.

The local community erected a small memorial near to the crash location and on 4 May each year, the five missing crew are commemorated here.

Místní lidé vybudovali poblíž místa nehody malý pomníček a každý rok 4. května si zde těchto pět padlých letců připomínají.

In England, these five airmen are commemorated on the Airmen’s Memorial at Runnymede, England, the International Bomber Command Centre, Lincoln, and the Bomber Command Memorial, London.

V Anglii jsou připomínáni v Památníku letců v Runnymede, v International Bomber Command Centre v Lincolnu a v Bomber Command Memorial v Londýně.

_______________________________________________________________




Posted in 311 Sqd, Not Forgotton | 2 Comments

Escape from France to England


František Petr recalls his dramatic airbourne escape from France to England in June 1940.

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František Petr joined Armée de l’Air 65th Escadrille de Bombment 112 Battalion after initial training, he was posted to 21 Escadrille de Corteau as an operational pilot and was soon in action against the advancing German armour. In May after several missions against the Germans, the French awarded him the Croix de Guerre for attacking a German armoured column near Sedan on 6 May 1940. The unit was based midway between Bordeaux and Agen (70 miles South East of Bordeaux). With the Germans advancing rapidly towards Paris things were getting difficult in France for the Czechs and they were contemplating what to do next. When it was taken out of their hands. The Czechoslovak airmen were summoned to the Escadrille Commander’s office. They were informed that he had received orders that all flying was to be stopped and personnel were to stop where they were. The officer understanding their plight made various suggestions and gave them money to help them. Exit through Spain unofficially. He also said that it would be impossible for him to allow them an aeroplane. Fate was in their hands again.

František Petr, Armée de l’Air

On leaving the office and thoroughly depressed, they had a brief discussion on what to do next. When one of the party realised that it was near lunchtime and that there were very few personnel situated near the aircraft lined-up. In a flash, they decided to attempt to steal one of the Bloch 210 twin-engined bombers. This aircraft, with a range of 1,700 Km, was capable of reaching England and there was one situated in an ideal area of the airfield for the escape.

Bloch 210

As they approached the aircraft they were challenged by a coloured Moroccan soldier on guard of the aircraft. The guard seeing that all the airmen were Sergeants in the Air Force may have been a little nervous. František ordered him to stand to attention. Then three more soldiers arrived and snapped to attention. The soldiers were ordered to go to another area of the airfield. While this was going on the Czechoslovak airmen got on board. They could not believe it when one of them found some bread and wine on board, but most of all that they were full of fuel. František was to be the pilot and started the engines. He did not have time to do his cockpit checks. He taxied straight to the runway that was right in front of him without making a turn.

This was an anxious time for them all and they feared that they would be fired on by the airfield defences. They roared down the runway. At the correct take-off speed, he tried to pull back the controls and nothing happened to his horror, suddenly realising to his horror that in the turmoil, he had forgotten to disconnect the hook that tied the controls to the front panel area. He remembered shouting at the time to his comrades ”for Christ sake do something” `with the runway getting shorter by the second. The request was answered very quickly and a well-aimed kick freed the hook. It smashed the airspeed gauge at the same time. František immediately pulled back on the controls and very narrowly missed some poplar trees just off the runway. Luckily they were not fired on.

Airborne with no maps or charts they flew westward over the coast and out to sea for approximately 25 km. Bohuslav Baumruk set a course for up the coast towards Saint-Nazaire. It was just after this that they were attacked by a seaplane. It made two passes at them firing as he came. Václav Kříž got into the top gun position and replied on both occasions. The German aircraft suddenly gave up the flight and flew off towards the French coast.

They were not sure whether the aircraft had left quickly because there may have been other German fighters in the area, far more effective than a seaplane. So they climbed to a good altitude and they were quite pleased with their progress. By now the weather was getting cloudy and they could not see any coastline.

After quite some time hoping to pass Saint-Nazaire to their right and to go over the Brittany peninsular. The starboard engine began to overheat and progressively got worse. They had to feather the engine for fear of it catching fire. The Bloch 210 was a heavy aircraft and more effort was required from the port engine. This put extra strain on it. They threw overboard every loose item on the aircraft to help the situation. Eventually, the strain began slowly to take effect and they began to lose height. The aircraft was losing approximately 60 metres every 5 minutes. Things appeared to be going against them. Passing through low cloud a coastline was spotted in the distance. Again they didn’t if it was the Loraine area or the Britany peninsular or England they were approaching. There was very little fuel left and they had no option but to try and force-land somewhere. František thought that they were going back to captivity. They crossed the coast at approximately 25 metres.

They managed to fly for a time until a suitable field was found. Then an open area appeared in front of them and down they went, unfortunately, František couldn’t judge his descent because of the damage to his airspeed gauge on take-off. They touched down and ran the full length of the field and towards a hedgerow right in front of them with a small drywall. They crashed into the wall and stopped dead. All the occupants received injuries, cuts and bruises. František received a large cut on his chin, the scar of which he still bears today. Kříž broke his arm badly. They quickly got out of the wreckage. František said there was no fear of fire as there was no fuel.

Not knowing where they were, they stayed not far from the crash site, half expecting Germans or Gendarmes to appear. After a short while, they were approached by a farmer with a double-barrelled shotgun. When they spoke to him, he was not sure if they were Germans or not. He took them to his farm and his daughter phoned the Police. Not being able to converse with the Czechoslovak airmen, the farmer became very wary of them and kept his weapon handy standing over them. The Police arrived, they again were unable to understand that they were Czechoslovaks in French Air Force uniforms.

Kříž was sent to hospital under escort. An Army officer arrived and they were taken to their camp. It was here that they were told to their delight, that they had come down to the east of Exeter in the south of England.

When their stories had been checked out by the military intelligence officers, they were well looked after and after a rest they were sent to RAF Bridgenorth. It was from here, after more checks, the airmen were sent to RAF Innsworth, Glos, then to RAF Cosford. It was there that František started a conversion course to Oxford aircraft. He also went to RAF Wilmslow near Manchester before being posted for operations with the newly formed 311 Sqn flying Wellingtons at RAF Honnington. After a short time, the whole squadron moved to East Wretham a few miles away from Norfolk. It was from there he did 1.5 tours of operations with RAF Bomber Command.

František Petr, 311 Sqn

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On the night of 20/21st October 1941, ten 311 Sqn Wellingtons took off for a night raid on Bremen, František was co-pilot of Wellington R1046, KX-E, taking off at 18:55. Nothing was heard after take-off until an SOS was received at 22:01 hours. They had dropped their bombs on Bremen but were attacked by a Luftwaffe night-fighter on their return flight. The attack on their Wellington caused damage to one of their engines and the aircraft came down on a sandbank 4½ miles south of Schiermonnikoog in the Frisian Islands. The crew (pilot Sgt Václav Proházka, second pilot Sgt František Petr, navigator P/O Erazim Veselý, and Sgts Josef Sůsa, Bedřich Valner and Jozef Zvolenský) were later picked up and became Prisoners of War.

After internment in several Prisoner of War camps, he was finally liberated in 1945 and repatriated to England. He returned to Czechoslovakia in August 1945, put following the Communist Putsch in February 1948, and the subsequent purge, by the StB – Státní bezpečnost – the State Security Police, on the former RAF airmen, he was forced to escape to the American Zone of Germany and then onto England for his 2nd exile. He rejoined the RAF

He rejoined the RAF and died, aged 83, on 25 February 2002, in Worcestershire, UK.

František Petr, Czechoslovak Club, London 1980’s.





Posted in 311 Sqd, Biography, Victim of Communism | 2 Comments

Remembering the 88


Remembering the 88 Czechoslovak pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain.

Připomínáme si 88 československých pilotů, kteří létali v bitvě o Británii

The Battle of Britain took place between 10 July and 31 October 1940 with some 2,938 Allied airmen flying in that conflict.

Bitva se odehrála v období mezi 10.červencem a 31. říjnem 1940. Dosud známe jména 2 938 letců, kteří se tohoto konfliktu zúčastnili.

Of these 88 were Czechoslovak, who flew mainly in 310 (Czechoslovak) and 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadrons as well as some British RAF Squadrons. Eight of whom lost their lives in that battle.

Osmdesát osm z nich byli Čechoslováci sloužící především u 310. a 312. perutě. Další naši letci pak působili u některých britských a jedné polské perutě RAF. Osm z nich zaplatilo tuto bitvu životem.

The names of those 2,938 are on display and the London Battle of Britain Monument, in panels according to their nationality.

Jména všech 2.938 leců najdeme rozdělená podle národností na panelech umístěných na London Battle of Britain Monument.

and also on The Foxley-Norris Wall at the National Battle of Britain Memorial, at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent, in alphabetical order.

a také na The Foxley-Norris Wall v Národním památníku bitvy o Británii v kentském Capel-le-Ferne, zde jsou uvedena v abecedním pořádku.

The 88 Czechoslovaks are:
Těmi 88 Čechoslováky jsou:

AMBRUŠ, Ján P/O
310 Sqn

BARTOŠ, Jindřich P/O
C de G
312 Sqn

BERGMAN, Václav P/O
C de G
310 Sqn

BERNARD, František Sgt
C de G
238, 60 Sqns

BREJCHA, Václav Sgt
43 Sqn

BURDA, František P/O
C de G
310 Sqn

CHÁBERA, František Sgt
C de G
312 Sqn

ČÍŽEK, Evžen P/O
C de G
1 Sqn

CUKR, Václav Sgt
C de G
253 Sqn

DOLEŽAL, František P/O
C de G
1 Sqn

DUDA, Josef F/Lt
C de G
312 Sqn

DVOŘÁK, Alois Sgt
310 Sqn

DYGRÝN, Josef Sgt
85, 1 Sqns

FAJTL, František P/O
C de G
1, 17 Sqns

FECHTNER Emil P/O
DFC
310 Sqn
† 29/10/40

FEJFAR, Stanislav P/O
C de G
310 Sqn

FOGLAR, Václav Sgt
245 Sqn

FOIT, Emil P/O
85, 310 Sqns

FRANTIŠEK, Josef Sgt
DFM and bar, C de G
303 Sqn
† 08/10/40

FÜRST, Bohuslav Sgt
310, 605 Sqns

GÖTH, Vilém, P/O
510, 310 Sqn
† 25/10/40

HANUŠ, Josef Jan P/O
C de G
310 Sqn

HANZLÍČEK, Otto Sgt
C de G
312 Sqn
† 10/10/40

HESS, Alexander S/Ldr
DFC, C de G
310 Sqn

HIMR, Jaroslav P/O
56, 310 Sqns

HLAVÁČ, Jaroslav Sgt
C de G
310, 56 Sqns
† 10/10/40

HLOBIL, Alois P/O
C de G
312, 238 Sqns

HORSKÝ, Vladimír Sgt
310, 238 Sqns
† 26/09/40

HRADIL, František P/O
310, 19 Sqns

HRUBÝ, Otakar Sgt
C de G
111 Sqn

HUBÁČEK, Josef Sgt
C de G
310 Sqn

HÝBLER, Josef P/O
310 Sqn

JANOUCH, Svatopluk P/O
C de G
310 Sqn

JAŠKE, Josef P/O
C de G
312 Sqn

JÍCHA, Václav Sgt
C de G
310, 1 Sqns

JIROUDEK, Miroslav F/Sgt
C de G
310 Sqn

KAŇA [Kania], Jozef F/Sgt
303 Sqn

KAUCKÝ, Jan Sgt
310 Sqn

KEPRT, Josef Sgt
C de G
312 Sqn

KESTLER, Oldřich Sgt
111 Sqn

KOMÍNEK, Josef Sgt
310 Sqn

KOPECKÝ, Miroslav Sgt
C de G
310, 111 Sqns

KOPŘIVA, Josef Sgt
310 Sqn

KÖRBER, Karel Sgt
32 Sqn

KORDULA, František P/O
310, 1, 17 Sqns

KOUKAL, Josef Sgt
310 Sqn

KRÁTKORUKÝ, Bedřich Sgt
1 Sqn

KREDBA, Miroslav P/O
310 Sqn

KUČERA, Jaroslav Sgt
245 Sqn

KUČERA, Jiří V. Sgt
C de G
310, 238 Sqns

KUČERA, Otmar Sgt
111 Sqn

KUTTELWASCHER, Karel Sgt
C de G
1 Sqn

MACHÁČEK, Jiří P/O
310, 145 Sqns

MALÝ, Jaroslav F/Lt
310 Sqn

MANSFELD, Miloslav Sgt
111 Sqn

MAREK, František Sgt
C de G
310, 19 Sqns
† 14/09/40

MRÁZEK, Karel P/O
310, 43, 46 Sqns

PAVLŮ, Otto Sgt
1 Sqn

PÍPA, Josef Sgt
43 Sqn

PLZÁK, Stanislav Sgt
C de G
310, 19 Sqns

PRCHAL, Eduard Sgt
C de G
310 Sqn

PŘÍHODA, Josef Sgt
1 Sqn

PTÁČEK, Rudolf Sgt
43 Sqn

PŮDA, Raimund Sgt
310, 605 Sqns

ŘECHKA, Josef Sgt
C de G
310 Sqn

ROHÁČEK, Rudolf P/O
310, 601, 238 Sqns

RYPL, František P/O
310 Sqn

ŠEDA, Karel Sgt
C de G
310 Sqn

ŠIKA, Jaroslav Sgt
C de G
43 Sqn

ŠLOUF, Václav Sgt
C de G
312 Sqn

ŠTEFAN, Jan Sgt
1 Sqn

STEHLÍK, Josef Sgt
C de G
312 Sqn

ŠTĚRBÁČEK, Jaroslav P/O
310 Sqn
† 31/08/40

STŘIHAVKA, Jaromír Sgt
85, 310 Sqns

TRUHLÁŘ, Jan Sgt
C de G
312 Sqn

VAŠÁTKO, Alois F/O
C de G
312 Sqn

VELEBNOVSKÝ, Antonín P/O
85, 1 Sqns

VESELÝ, Vlastimil P/O
C de G
312 Sqn

VINDIŠ, František Sgt
310 Sqn

VOPÁLECKÝ, Josef Sgt
C de G
310 Sqn

VRÁNA, Adolf P/O
C de G
312 Sqn

VYBÍRAL, Tomáš P/O
C de G
312 Sqn

VYKOUKAL, Karel P/O
C de G
310, 111, 73 Sqns

WEBER, František P/O
310, 145 Sqns

ZAORAL, Vladimír P/O
310, 501 Sqns

ZAVORAL, Antonín Sgt
310, 151, 1 Sqns

ZIMA, Rudolf P/O
310 Sqn

ZIMPRICH, Stanislav P/O
310 Sqn

Posted in 310 Sqd, 312 Sqd, Battle of Britain, Not Forgotton | 3 Comments

More Czechoslovak connection at the Kent BoB Museum


Další československé prolnutí do Kent Battle of Britain Museum

There is now a new Czechoslovak exhibit at the world-renowned Kent Battle of Britain Museum, Kent. Following re-researching of records and new information regarding recovered items from a Hurricane excavation near Great Totham, Essex in the 1980’s, that the Museum had acquired, Museum Chairman and Curator David Brocklehurst MBE, identified that the Hurricane was actually P3887 and had been flown by S/Ldr G D M Blackwood, joint Commanding Officer of 310 (Czechoslovak) Sqn, which had been shot down on 26 August 1940.

Ve světoznámém muzeu bitvy o Británii v Kentu je nyní k vidění další československý exponát. Průzkum archívů vedený ředitelem muzea a kurátorem Davidem Brocklehurstem MBE a nové informace nabyté o troskách stroje Hurricane, vyzdviženého ze země nedaleko Great Tathamu v hrabství Essex v osmdesátých letech minulého století a nalézajícího se nyní ve sbírkách muzea, vedly k určení tohoto nálezu jako stroje P3887 létaného S/Ldr. G. D. M. Blackwoodem, britským velícím důstojníkem 310. perutě. Sestřelen byl 26. sprna 1940.

Their announcement of this information resulted in the family of the late Ben Chamberlain, himself the nephew of Battle of Britain pilot John Boulton, donating to the museum a framed WW2 photograph that had been presented to, now, Wing Commander G D M Blackwood in May 1943 and signed by pilots from 313 (Czechoslovak) Sqn, six of whom had flown in the Battle of Britain with him in 310 (Czechoslovak) Sqn.

Toto oznámení vedlo Bena Chamberlaina, synovce Johna Boultona a pilota v bitvě o Británii, k daru zarámované fotografie z druhé světové války, na které je již v době jejího pořízení v květnu 1943 vidět Wing Commader G. D. M. Blackwood. Fotografie je podepsaná piloty 313. perutě, z nichž šest sloužilo v bitvě o Británii u 310. perutě.

Dave Brocklehurst MBE, Museum Chairman and Curator.
Dave Brocklehurst MBE, ředitel a kurátor muzea.

Signed by BERGMAN Václav, BERNARD František, DOLEŽAL František, FOGLAR Václav, KUČERA Jiří and KUČERA Otmar.

Podepsáno Václavem Bergmanem, Františkem Bernardem, Františkem Doležalem, Václavem Foglarem, Jiřím Kučerou a Otmarem Kučerou.

_______________________________________________________________

The combat:
Souboj

310 Sqn was scrambled from Duxford and airbourne by 15:10 and ordered to patrol North Weald at 15.000 feet, Cloud base was about 7,000 feet and the squadron, led by its Commanding Officer S/Ldr G D M Blackwood, flying Hurricane P3887, climbed steeply through the clouds until they reached 15,000 feet. It was perhaps unfortunate that the C/O’s aircraft was the only one fitted with VHF thus making it impossible for him to communicate the remainder of the squadron. This inevitably led to some loss of formation. Some 15-18 Dornier 215 were soon sighted flying in tight formation on a South Easterly course. The C/O immediately engaged one which for some reason had broken away from the remainder. He fired a long burst from his machine guns at about 500 yards range and the Dornier 215 went down in a steep dive enveloped in thick smoke and flames. Unfortunately, in the course of the engagement, S/Ldr Blackwood’s Hurricane received an incendiary bullet in its starboard fuel tank, setting it on fire forcing him to bail out at 8,000 feet. He landed safely at Wickham Bishop, near Maldon, Essex and he rejoined the squadron at Duxford at 18:00 the same day little worse for his adventure.

Třistadesátá peruť reagovala na poplach a vzlétla v 15:10 s rozkazem hlídkovat nad North Weald ve výšce 15.000 stop. Základna mraků byla přibližně v 7.000 stop. Peruť vedená jejím velícím důstojníkem S/Ldr. Blackwoodem na stroji Hurricane P3887 prudce vystoupala skrze mraky do 15.000 stop. Nepříznivou okolností bylo, že pouze stroj velitele byl vybaven radiokomunikačním zařízením, takže ten nemohl komunikovat se zbytkem perutě. Nevyhnutelným důsledkem byla částečná ztráta formace. Zanedlouho bylo pozorováno patnáct až osmnáct strojů Dornier Do 215 letících v těsné formaci jihovýchodním směrem. Velící důstojník si okamžitě vybral ten, který z nějakých důvodů opustil formaci. Vypálil ze svých kulometů dlouhou dávku ze vzdálenosti kolem 500 yardů. Dornier začal prudce padat v plamenech, zahalený do hustého dýmu. Bohužel, při útoku utrpěl jeho Hurricane zásah do pravé palivové nádrže, která vzplanula. S/Ldr. Blackwood byl donucen svůj stroj přibližně v 8.000 stop opustit. Na zem dopadl bezpečně ve Wickham Bishop nedaleko Maldonu v Essexu. K peruti se vrátil v šest hodin odpoledne unavený z událostí uplynulého dne.

S/Ldr Blackwood’s recollection of this combat:
Popis souboje od S/Ldr. Blackwooda

When leading Squadron of 12 aircraft I sighted a formation of about 15 to 20 Dornier 215’s. As mine was the only one fitted with VHF I was unable to give orders for any particular attack. I dived in from astern and opened fire at about 600 yards closing to about 300 yards when I broke away owing to intense fire from the rear of the formation. On the second attack I noticed one Dornier slightly separated from the formation so I attacked from astern and gave it a long burst at about 300-250 yards. The enemy aircraft wobbled and seemed to take slight evasion action but may have been out of control. I then smelt something burning and noticed that my starboard wing tank was blistering on the top side of the wing. I broke off the attack and realised that my petrol tank was burning inside. About ten seconds later the tank burst into flames so I undid my straps and disconnected oxygen tabs etc. I turned the aircraft over on its back and fell out. I landed in a stubble field without any damage to myself.

Když jsem vedl peruť dvanácti strojů, zpozoroval jsem okolo 15 – 20 strojů Dornier Do 215. Jelikož pouze můj stroj byl vybaven radiostanicí, nemohl jsem vydat rozkaz ke konkrétnímu způsobu útoku. Vrhl jsem se do útoku zezadu a přibližně z 600 yardů zahájil palbu. Během útoku jsem se přiblížil na 300 yardů. V této vzdálenosti jsem se musel kvůli těžké palbě ze zadní části formace z útoku odpoutat. Když jsem se vzdálil, všiml jsem si, že mi hoří zevnitř palivová nádrž. O přibližně deset sekund později požár nádrže propukl naplno. Uvolnil jsem si pásy, odpojil kyslíkovou masku a tak dále. Obrátil jsem stroj na záda a opustil ho. Přistál jsem nezraněn na strništi.

S/Ldr G D M Blackwood receiving a Czechoslovak medal from President Benešs, Duxford 14.12.1940.
S/Ldr. G.D.M. Blackwood přijímá 14. prosince 1940 od prezidenta Beneše československé vyznamenání.

_______________________________________________________________




Posted in 310 Sqd, Battle of Britain, Information | Leave a comment

North American Harvard


History

The Harvard originated as an entry for the US Army Air Corps “Basic Combat” aircraft competition in March 1937. The requirement was for a basic trainer capable of simulating the feel of a combat aircraft. The competition was won by the North American Aircraft Company who submitted their NA-26 based upon their NA-16 prototype which first flew on 1 April 1935. This improved version incorporated a 600 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine with variable pitch propeller, hydraulically operated undercarriage and flaps and a stressed skin fuselage. In 1938 went into production as the BC-1 with 180 being supplied to the US Army Air Corp, 16 to the US Navy designated as SNJ-1 with a further 61 as the SNJ-2 with a R-1340-56 engine and changes to carburetor and oil cooler scoops. The Royal Air Force ordered 400 known as the Harvard I. In 1940 the US Army Air Corp changed the designation to the AT-6.

In August 1938, Noorduyn Aviation of Montreal had the foresight to sign an agreement with North American, to build the Harvard under licence. When the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) came into being in December 1939, Noorduyn received its first order of 50 Harvard Mk. Is ordered by the Canadian Government which were delivered to RCAF Sea Island, British Columbia in July 1939. They went on to produce nearly 2800 Harvard Mk. IIBs for the RCAF and the RAF, between 1940 and 1945. In Canada, Harvard Mk. IIBs were used as advanced trainers with the BCATP at fifteen Service Flying Training Schools across the nation. They helped pilots make to the transition from low powered primary trainers, like Fleet Finch or the de Havilland Tiger Moth, to high performance front line fighters such as the Spitfire.

In 1942, a new factory in Dallas, Texas, commenced production to supplement that at the main plant in California. At the same time, the now US Army Air Force designated the aircraft the AT-6 Texan. Thereafter, various marks were produced including the AT6-B which mounted a 0.30in machine gun for gunnery training. Not only was the AT-6/Harvard used as an allied trainer. Japan had acquired a licence to build the aircraft in the late 1930s and almost 200 saw service with that nation’s air force and navy during the 2nd World War.

Harvards were gradually withdrawn from Royal Air Force service in the 1950s. All told, the aircraft served with the armed forces of no fewer than 50 nations. A total of 20,110 Harvards were built between 1938 and 1954 (including the ‘Wirraway’ as it was designated in Australia),3,370 of them in Canada. Countless numbers of privately owned Harvards are still flying today.

Training in Harvards, Canada.

Design

The BC-1 was the production version of the NA-26 prototype, with retractable tailwheel landing gear and the provision for armament, a two-way radio, and the 550-hp (410 kW) R-1340-47 engine as standard equipment. Production versions included the BC-1 (Model NA-36) with only minor modifications (177 built), of which 30 were modified as BC-1I instrument trainers; the BC-1A (NA-55) with airframe revisions (92 built); and a single BC-1B with a modified wing center-section.

Three BC-2 aircraft were built before the shift to the “advanced trainer” designation, AT-6, which was equivalent to the BC-1A. The differences between the AT-6 and the BC-1 were new outer wing panels with a swept-forward trailing edge, squared-off wingtips, and a triangular rudder, producing the canonical Texan silhouette. After a change to the rear of the canopy, the AT-6 was designated the Harvard II for RAF/RCAF orders and 1,173 were supplied by purchase or Lend Lease, mostly operating in Canada as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

Next came the AT-6A which was based on the NA-77 design and was powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-1340-49 Wasp radial engine. The USAAF received 1,549 and the US Navy 270 (as the SNJ-3). The AT-6B was built for gunnery training and could mount a .30 caliber machine gun on the forward fuselage. It used the R-1340-AN-1 engine, which was to become the standard for the remaining T-6 production. Canada’s Noorduyn Aviation built an R-1340-AN-1-powered version of the AT-6A, which was supplied to the USAAF as the AT-16 (1,500 aircraft) and the RAF/RCAF as the Harvard IIB (2,485 aircraft), some of which also served with the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Canadian Navy.

In late 1937, Mitsubishi purchased two NA-16s as technology demonstrators and possibly a licence. However, the aircraft developed by Watanabe/Kyushu as the K10W1 (Allied code name Oak) bore no more than a superficial resemblance to the North American design. It featured a full monocoque fuselage as opposed to the steel tube fuselage of the T-6 and NA-16 family of aircraft, as well as being of smaller dimensions overall and had no design details in common with the T-6. It was used in very small numbers by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1942 onwards. None survived the end of the war, and after the war, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force operated Texans.

The NA-88 design resulted in 2,970 AT-6C Texans and 2,400 as the SNJ-4. The RAF received 726 of the AT-6C as the Harvard IIA. Modifications to the electrical system produced the AT-6D (3,713 produced) and SNJ-5 (1,357 produced). The AT-6D, redesignated the Harvard III, was supplied to the RAF (351 aircraft) and Fleet Air Arm (564 aircraft). When the USAF was created in 1948, its final production variant was nominated T-6G (SNJ-7) and involved major advancements including a full-time hydraulic system and a steerable tailwheel and persisted into the 1950s as the USAF advanced trainer.

Subsequently, the NA-121 design with a completely clear rearmost section on the canopy, gave rise to 25 AT-6F Texans for the USAAF and 931, as the SNJ-6 for the US Navy. The ultimate version, the Harvard 4, was produced by Canada Car and Foundry during the 1950s, and supplied to the RCAF, USAF and Bundeswehr.

34 SFTS, Medicine Hat, Canada.

Training

As WW2 became inevitable, the Royal Air Force expansion programme demanded a massive increase in pilot training and to meet this need the Empire Air Training Scheme was established.

The Royal Air Force soon turned to the United States to acquire the trainer aircraft needed to equip the Scheme. The Harvard was one of the first American aircraft ordered by the RAF when a contract for two-hundred was placed in June 1938. British purchasing contracts reached 1100 before American Lend Lease arrangements began.

Some of the first aircraft were delivered to the United Kingdom, but soon after the outbreak of war the majority of flying training units were moved to Canada, Southern Rhodesia and the United States. This made room for operational aircraft in Great Britain and provided safer conditions for training.

Harvards were gradually withdrawn from Royal Air Force service in the 1950s.

North American Harvard Specification:

Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 Wasp radial engine, 600 hp
Performance: Max speed: 208 mph, Cruise speed: 145 mph, Service Ceiling height: 22,200 ft Range: 730 miles.
Weight: Unladen: 4,158 lbs, Max laden: 5,617 lbs.
Dimensions: Wing span: 42 feet, Length: 29 feet, Maximum height: 11 feet 8 inches
Armament: None.
Crew: 2

34 SFTS, Medicine Hat, Canada.




Posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd, Aircraft | Leave a comment

Leopold Srom





Leopold ŠROM

…………….* 08.09.1917., Chrlice, Brno.

…………….† 11.10.1968., Kladno.








The Early Years

Leopold Šrom was born on 8 September 1917 in Chrlice near Brno where, from 1923, he attended the local school; he then continued his education for three years at secondary school at Tuřany with a further year at Brno. On completing his basic schooling in 1931 he wanted to continue to study electrical engineering but was not accepted for his chosen course. Instead he went on a three-year course to train as a radio-mechanic, which he successfully completed in 1935. The following year he took the opportunity to train to become a pilot in the ‘Thousand Pilots for the Republic’. This training scheme was initiated by the Czechoslovak government and industry as there were now concerns about the growing military strength in neighbouring Nazi Germany. In this scheme young men trained to become ‘sports and touring aircraft’ pilots, with instructors from the Czechoslovak Air Force. Leopold successfully graduated from the training on 1 October 1936 and received his pilot’s certificate.

Czechoslovak Air Force

Leopold Šrom, fighter pilot training at 4th Air Regiment.

He later joined the Czechoslovak Air Force, initially with the 5th Air Regiment, based at Brno, where he joined a basic military pilot training course. He was then posted to the 4th Air Regiment at Prague-Kbely airbase for fighter pilot training and then onto the Military Academy at Prostějov for advanced training.

Leopold Šrom, pre-war Czechoslovak Air Force.

He completed his military training at the end of 1938 and was posted to the 3rd Aviation Regiment at Spišské Nové Vsi in Slovakia.

To Poland

Following the German occupation in March 1939, Slovakia now became an independent ‘puppet’ State in return for supporting Hitler. The Germans disbanded the Czechoslovak Air Force and Leopold was demobilised and returned home. Like many other of his Air Force colleagues, he could not accept the Nazi occupation of his homeland and on 15 June 1939, he left his native Chrlice to travel to neighbouring Poland so that he could join the Czechoslovak military force which was being assembled there. He said, “On Thursday, 15 June, I went to Místek, where I had to report to Mr. Klus who took me to Frýdek to Mr Novák, where I met again with my brother-in-law mentor Bednář. I spent the night at Mr. Novák’s and on the second day he brought an eighteen-year-old boy, whose name I did not know, who led us to the village of Morávka, where we walked a little way upstream, where were we showed where we should cross the river, and so we reached Polish territory. From here we went on foot to Horní Suchá, where we boarded the train.”

In the village of Albrechtice, near Liberec, north-east Czechoslovakia, he was met by a pre-arranged guide and they continued onto Krakow. There he reported for duty at the Czechoslovak Consulate and was billeted at Malý Bronowice, a former Polish army camp outside Krakow.

In Poland, Leopold, like all the other escapers from Czechoslovakia, found that there was no enthusiasm from the Polish authorities to have Czechoslovak military units assembled on their territory as the Poles had no wish to provoke neighbouring Nazi Germany. Instead, negotiations between the Czechoslovak Consulate, Krakow and the French authorities resulted in the offer that the Czechoslovak escapees would be allowed to travel to France. However as French law did not permit foreign military units to be based on its soil in peacetime, the Czechoslovaks would be required to enlist in the French Foreign Legion for a period of five years but with the promise that if war was declared the Czechoslovaks would be released from their French Foreign Legion service and could enter into French military units. The alternative was that Czechoslovaks who would not accept these terms would be returned by the Polish authorities to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

To France

Leopold Šrom with other Czechoslovak escapees en-route to France.

On 25 July 1939, Leopold, along with other Czechoslovak military personnel, left Malý Bronowice and travelled by train to the port of Gdynia, where they boarded a ship to France. On arrival, they were taken to the Legion’s recruitment centre at Paris to complete enlistment formalities and medical examinations. By 26 August these were completed, and they were transported to the Legion’s training camp at Sidi-bel-Abbes, Algeria.

Leopold Šrom, Sidi-bel-Abbes 17 October 1939.

Only a few days later, on 1 September, the German army invaded Poland and two days later war was declared. However, Leopold and his colleagues had to wait until 1 November before they were released from their Legion service and returned to mainland France. Here, Leopold was accepted into l’Armée d’Air and on 30 November was posted to their training base at Chartres for retraining on French aircraft and to learn French. Before his training was completed, on 10 May 1940, Germany invaded France and some six weeks later, on 18 June 1940, France capitulated. Leopold and his Czechoslovak colleagues were evacuated from France by ship and taken to England.

The RAF

Leopold Šrom, Exeter, July 1942.

On arrival in England, he enlisted into the RAF as a Volunteer Reserve at the rank of Sergeant. Again he underwent aircraft re-training and language learning, this time on British aircraft and in English. This became the priority as the Battle of Britain was now taking place. At the end of November, he was posted to 245 Sqn, a fighter squadron then stationed at Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was there on 29 May 1941 that he achieved his first aerial combat with the destruction of a Luftwaffe bomber. In July he was posted to 310 Sqn (Czechoslovak), who were equipped at that time with Hurricane fighter aircraft and later re-equipped with Spitfire aircraft. On 23 July, whilst flying Spitfire V, BL495 NN-U, on a Rhubarb raid ( operational flights by either fighters or fighter-bombers that would take place when there was low cloud and poor visibility. The Allied aircraft would fly across the English Channel to occupied Europe, drop under the clouds and search for any targets of opportunity.) on Lannion airfield, France, a one-metre wide hole was blasted through his starboard wing by the airfield’s anti-aircraft defences. Leopold managed to fly the aircraft back to base in the UK.

On completion of his operational tour, he was posted for flying instructor duties where he spent his six months rest period, returning to 310 Sqn in January 1943 for his 2nd operational tour. In the later part of that year, he learned of plans for a Czechoslovak fighter squadron to be formed in Russia to fight on the Eastern Front, and volunteers were being sought from the Czechoslovak RAF fighter squadrons. Twenty-one Czechoslovak fighter pilots volunteered for this new squadron, one of whom was Leopold.

To Russia

In February 1944, Leopold left the RAF and with his 20 colleagues began their arduous trip to the Soviet Union. They arrived there in May 1944 where they underwent re-training on the Soviet Lavočkin La-5FN fighter aircraft. The new unit was named the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Fighter Aviation Regiment and was sent to help the Slovak National Uprising, which broke out at the end of August 1944.

Lavochkin La-5FN fighter aircraft of 1st Czechoslovak Independent Fighter Aviation Regiment.

Under difficult conditions, the unit achieved a number of successes in both aerial combat and against ground targets. During this period Leopold was awarded the Soviet Victory over Germany medal, which was only achieved if he shot them down six aerial combats against Luftwaffe aircraft making him the unit’s most successful pilot. Unfortunately, the Slovak National Uprising was ill-fated and by October had been suppressed, forcing the unit to evacuate from Slovakia back East to Soviet-held territory. Here the unit was reorganised into the Air Division and Lieutenant Leopold Šrom was appointed Commander of the 2nd Squadron of the 1st Fighter Regiment. With this unit, in April 1945, he fought for the liberation of Ostrava, Czechoslovakia.

Leopold Šrom, with other Czechoslovak airmen on the Eastern Front.

Post WW2

When WW2 ended, he rejoined the Czechoslovak Air Force where he tested new planes and repaired aircraft as well as testing airplanes for the Czechoslovak Scientific Aviation Institute. In February 1948, the Communists take-over of Czechoslovakia took place and they identified that those who had fought in the west during WW2 as a threat to their regime. Systematically the began to remove former RAF airmen from the Czechoslovak Air Force; usually by demoting them to the lowest rank, stripping them of any medals that Czechoslovakia had awarded them, and then persecuting them, including arrest and imprisonment.

Arrested by the State Security Police

In October 1948 Leopold had married Dagmar Novotná, neé Julínek, and in the same month he was promoted to the rank of štábní kapitán (Staff Captain). However, despite having fought with the Soviets, he was not spared the political purges that were taking place in the Czechoslovak Air Force. At the end of 1948, he was arrested by the StB – Státní bezpečnost – the State Security Police and detained. After his release, he was able to return to flying for a while, but shortly after was dismissed from the Air Force.

He managed to find work as a radio-mechanic with Tesla Žižkov, a national company. In the 1960s he was partially rehabilitated for the injustices of 1948. In 1963, Leopold was granted the lower rank of a Major, in reserve, in the Czechoslovak Air Force and in 1965 to the rank of Podplukovník (Lieutenant Colonel). With that partial rehabilitation came the opportunity to get back to flying. In 1966, he applied for employment as a pilot with ČSA – Československé Státní Aerolinie – the State airline. He successfully passed all the prescribed tests and met the medical requirements, and in 1966 he was accepted and employed as a co-pilot on Avia Av-14 transport aircraft which ČSA used on national and international routes. However, his service at ČSA was not to last long; on 11 October 1968, Avia Av-14, OK-MCJ, crashed a few minutes after take-off from Prague-Ruzyně, killing the three crew and eight passengers on board.

Following the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in November 1989, under the new regime led by the new President, Václav Havel, the former Czechoslovak RAF were morally and politically rehabilitated by the Czechoslovak authorities. In Leopold’s case, this happened on 17 June 1991, when he was promoted, in memoriam, to the rank of Plukovník (Colonel) in the Czechoslovak Air Force.

Medals :

In recognition of his military service during WW2 he had been awarded the following medals:

Czechoslovakia:

4x Válečným kříž 1939 (Czechoslovak War Cross 1939)
3x Za chrabrost (Medal of Honor )
Za zásluhy I. stupně (Medal of Merit, grade I)
Pamětní medailí se štítkem F – VB (Memorial medal with Franace, Great Britain and USSR campaign bars)
Rad Slovenského národného povstania I. triedy (Order of the Slovak National Uprising I grade)

Great Britain:

Defence Medal
War Medal

Russia

Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945

Remembered:

Memorial at Chrlice, Brno.

Šromová Street at Chrlice, Brno

In the Černý Most District of Prague 14, a street is named in his honour:

In November 2017, his name, along with the names of some 2500 other Czechoslovak men and women who had served in the RAF during WW2, was unveiled at the Winged Lion Monument at Klárov, Prague.




Posted in 310 Sqd, Biography, Not Forgotton, Other RAF Squadrons, Russia, Victim of Communism | 2 Comments

Recollections of Jiri Manak


The unedited recollections of S/Ldr Jiří Maňák about his escape from Czechoslovakia in 1939 to Poland, his journey to France, joining l’Arme d’Air, evacuation from France, joining the RAF, being shot down over Holland and his time as a Prisoner of War.

The recollection uses the RAF term of ‘Rhubarb’ – operational flights by either fighters or fighter-bombers that would take place when there was low cloud and poor visibility. The Allied aircraft would fly across the English Channel to occupied Europe, drop under the clouds and search for any targets of opportunity.

_______________________________________________________________

I was actually in the first party of Czech airmen coming to England from France, landing at Falmouth on the 23 June 1940. After passing through several camps we signed to the RAF VR on 3 July and started 310 Squadron at Duxford. There I did only three dual flights with Czech instructors. As there were too many pilots we, the youngest, were sent to the Czech Depot in Cosford, then to OTU and British squadrons

I started gliding in 1932 and passed the private pilot’s licence in 1935. Then I joined the Czechoslovak Air Force and passed the school with Vic Bergman as observer. After two years compulsory service I passed Air Academy and during our mobilisation I was serving in Russian light bombers B71. In 1939 I just started Air Force pilot’s training when the Germans came in. My escape from Protectorate was organised by Association of Czech Airmen. On the 28 June 1939 I went by train to Ostrava where we got further instructions. We went to a small railway station in Ostrava where we were told to climb at night a freight wagon. Just after 11 pm came a locomotive and after about half an hour we were in Poland Szumbark (now Havířov). It was a special train for this purpose. In Poland I was told the Germans discovered all of this about a week later. We were all concentrated in Krakov. Nobody wanted us. Only the French, but we had to sign for five years Foreign Legion with a promise that we shall be released in case of war. On 29 July 1939 a party of us boarded at Gdynia a Polish boat, Chroby, on her maiden way to South America and on the 1 August we landed in Bologne.

Jiří Maňák, Gdynia harbour 29.07.1939.

A party of us were stationed at St Cyr hoping the war will start soon. On 7 October 1939 I signed offically entry to Foreign Legion as sergeant but I stayed in France. As I did not finish Air Force pilot’s training I was sent to a base near Tours as air gunner. On the 1 December I was promoted to the rank of Adjutant-Chef. In January 1940 six of us with private pilots licences were sent to Advanced Training School at la Rochelle and then in March to Fighter Pilots School at Étampes. When, in May 1940, Germans started advancing to the West we continued training at several field aerodromes until we finished at St Xanare near la Rochelle, where I finished my training and was waiting for posting to operational squadron, but on the 18 June 1940 our Commanding Officer said during lunch that German tanks are about 30 km from us and therefore he was disbanding the school and anybody can do what he likes, go home or take an aircraft and fly where he wants. So I took this Morane 230, an aerobatic training aircraft, and flew south about 200 km to Cazères which I knew already from the time as air-gunner. We actually had no maps. We had a French Avis car which took us to the Czech Depot in Bordeaux about 80 km North. At the depot were concentrated about hundred Czechs and 200 Polish personnel.

Jiří Maňák, with l’Armée d’Air, France.

At the port we boarded a small Dutch cargo ship ‘Ary Scheffer’, and when we were leaving the port on 19 June we could see the Germans bombing Bordeaux. We went far into the Atlantic because the Germans occupied already the northern and western part of France. ‘Ary Scheffer’, was a small cargo ship of about 400 tonnes and we had to stay most of the time underneath the deck. After five days we finally, and luckily, landed at British port Falmouth. After passing through several camps a party of us went to London to sign an application to RAF VR and so we formed the first Czechoslovak squadron in Britain, number 310, in Duxford on 12 July 1940. I was commissioned as Pilot Officer number 81896. In Duxford I did only three dual flights with Czech instructors. There were too many pilots so me, and Pilot Officer Engineer Karel Drbolav, the youngest, were sent to the Czech Depot in Cosford near Wolverhampton to wait for vacancies at some OTU.

Jiří Maňák, 601 Sqn, RAF Northolt.

On the 27 September 1940 we went to 12 OTU at RAF Benson, near Oxford, to fly Battles, and on the 20 October to 6 OTU at Sutton Bridge on Hurricanes. Finally on 25 November me and Drbolav were posted to British operational squadron number 601 (Country of London) to Exeter where we did just a few scrambles and battle patrols and on 17 December we moved to Northolt in 11 Group. Firstly we did some scrambles and patrols and finally on 2 February we started escorting some Blenheims over to France – Boulogne, Calais, St Omer, and so on. Once we were patrolling at 33000 ft when three me 109’s were still above us. I tried to climb towards them and when I was about three to four hundred yards away I tried to fire at them but as soon as I pressed the button I spun. We had few skirmishes but for me without any further effect. On the 1st April I did my first Rhubard when we machine-gunned aerodromes near Crecy and Amiens.

Then in May and June 1941 we were moved to Manston with two assignments, to do dawn to dusk patrols in pairs between Thames Estuary and Dover against low-flying Me109’s which radar could not detect and escorting Lysanders on air-sea rescue work. On the 6th of May while we were escorting a Lysander trying to drop a dinghy to a chap in the sea just south of Dover there came in three Me109’s so I attacked and chased one across the Channel at sea level, gave him some bursts so that he hit the sea and was gone.

Once we had a big dog-fight over Dover with four Me109’s among the ballons, Dover flak and German’s long-range cannon. The esult was only one of our Hurricanes slightly damaged. On the 3rd of June while coming out of clouds near Boulogne I was attacked by one Me109. I broke up and attacked the second one at sea level. He crashed into the sea. My airscrew was was hit by shrapnel. In these two months at Manston I did over hundred operational flights and 120 hours.

Jiří Maňák, with 601 Sqn personnel by Aircobra aircraft.

From 1st July we moved to RAF Station Matlaske in 12 Group. There we were doing convoy patrols, scrambles searching for people. In August we moved to Duxford from where we were doing normal operational work on Hurricanes and at the same time we were getting American aircraft Aircobras. On these we did only few operational flights. I did three. Rhubards to Gravelines, St Omer, shipping recco Calais-Ostend, and night vectoring after bandit. But by the end of ’41 it was decided that Airacobras would go to Russia, that 601 will go to Malta and because and because at that time I had already 250 operational hours, limit was about 200, I was sent as instructor in November 1941 to 61 OTU at Heston on the outskirts of London on Spitfires. In May, OTU was moved to RAF Station Rednall and I was appointed officer commanding a flight. In A course there were usually around ten pupils.

Once I had a sergeant who was not very good. I saw that his space orientation is bad. But as he passed only so far, I just paid him much greater attention than to others. Once I took him for a formation flight at 6000 feet. At one moment my Spitfire shuddered and I went into flat inverted spin. I tried to get out of it but nothing helped, so at 2000 feet I had to jump out. As soon as my parachute opened I saw, about a hundred yards from me at the same height, complete tail unit with part of the fuselage. Apparently he set down on my aircraft and with his steel airscrew cut my aircraft just behind my head. The sergeant landed back at the aerodrome only with slightly bent airscrew. My luck was doubled when I was told by the parachute section that my parachute which they changed that morning disintegrated because of acid from battery.

In July I was posted to 81 Squadron at Hornchurch on Spits V and in August to 611 Squadron at Redhill with Spit IX’s as supernumerary flight commander. With Spit IX’s we were doing mainly top covers by escorting Fortresses. On the 19th August I did with 611 Squadron four flight over Dieppe operation and I got one Fw190 damaged. On the 5th September I got another Fw190 while escorting Fortresses to Rouen. By the end of September, I was appointed Flight Commander of a newly formed squadron, number 192, in Martlesham Heath with Typhoons with racks for two bombs of 250 or 500 pounds. As most of the pilots were operationally unexperienced and there were some troubles with the aircraft it took some time before we became operational. I did the first Rhubarb on 1st January 1943 on post installations of the dock at Bruges. We also passed a phase in preparation for invasion of Europe, sleeping in tents, separation from the outside world, and so on. But in April 1943 we did many Rhubarbs on trains and dive-bombing of aerodromes with very good results.

On 1 May 1943 I was appointed Commanding Officer of 198 Squadron at Martlesham Heath. The pilots were absolutely unexperienced, the morale was not very good and as we had not enough aircraft to do operations and also need for training I asked Fighter Command to put me out of operations for two weeks. I succeeded and so we went to RAF station Woodvale near Liverpool from 15th June to 5 July. Then we came back to Martlesham Heath, doing mainly patrols, shipping reccos and Hurricanes with rockets. For example we damaged in a fortnight, fifteen locomotives and some barges.

To be nearer to occupied Europe we moved on the 23rd August 1943 to Manston, doing mainly Rhubarbs and attacking transport and escorting Hurricanes with rockets. On Saturday 28th August 1943 I was leading four Typhoons to patrol a german airfield in Holland and to stop FW’s from trying to intercept our Hurricanes with rockets which were going to attack lock-gates at Loebs-Maldegom canal. There were low clouds and occasional rain which should shield us against enemy attack on the way back with lack of petrol. We flying right down on seaways and keeping radio silence up to 1900 hours when we should have crossed the coast. At 1851 hours when we were already nearing Knokke I heard on RT the password for cancelling the whole show, but being so far I decided to have a look on some trains. We crossed the coast at about ten miles inside Holland. I noticed smoke coming from my engine. Evidently some chance bullet affected my radiator.

There was nothing else to do than trying to return before the engine will jam; at least to reach the sea and be rescued by air-sea rescue service. But as soon as I crossed the coast back to sea my engine started getting rough and the speed was quickly dropping. Being right down on sea level I had no choice but to ditch right in front of me against high waves. The storm had about 40 to 50 miles per hour. The aircraft went right down under the water deep into the sea and therefore did not catch fire. The Typhoon had actually one bad feature, catching fire while crash landing on ground or in the sea. Because I lost my bearings I released compressed air into my Mae-West and that’s what shot me up to the surface. After I got into the dinghy the storm started with thick rain and gusts of wind so that the tops of the waves went over me but the dinghy kept stability. Unfortunately the wind was westerly and was pushing me back to Holland. At about 3 o’clock in the morning the storm washed me ashore at the island of Walcheren. In darkness and tick rain I crossed pipe, barbed wire fences and suddenly heard “Halte! Hände hoch!” and so I became a prisoner of war.

Most of Sunday I spent resting and drying my uniform. On Monday I was taken by two guards to Dulag Luft, an interrogation camp for airmen near Frankfurt am Maine. I had to undress completely and searched. I was stripped of most of the buttons, which were compasses, and linings which were maps of France, Belgium and Holland. The NCO who was searching me said only casually that I was Czech or Pole. Then I was put in a room about two on four metres with one bed, one table and two chairs.

Next morning a German officer came in and his first sentence was in Czech. I pretended not to understand and, according to Geneva Convention, told him only my service number, rank, first name, which I changed to James instead of Jiří, family name, Manak without the hook, and stroke, having in mind Mannock of the last war, and religion. And so every day came another officer, some with cigarettes and nice talk, some talking about my family and Gestapo. They wanted to know especially performance, organisation and missions of Typhoons. Then came in one day a young German officer who said he was a fighter pilot who was shot down during the Battle of Britain, hurt his spine and could not fly any more. He was coming in for several days, giving me some smokes, trying to draw me in conversation but I was cautious.

One day he even brought with him a young German airman, supposedly his nephew, who was spending leave at his home and who was monitoring just our RT frequency and, to my surprise, he said he recognised my voice and even described some of our trips and radio correspondence before I was shot down. Still. the officer asserted that I must tell him something about Typhoons otherwise they had orders to hand me over to the Gestapo. I explained to him that for me it would be better to be handed over to the Gestapo than to be court-martialled after the war for revealing military secrets. Then one day he came in with an interrogation. form where was my number, name, rank, religion and that I am British. I signed it, got prisoner of war number Stalag Luft III number 2378. I was released from interrogation.

Jiří Maňák, at Stalag Luft III, with felloe Czechoslovaks Ivo Tonder and Arnošt Valenta.

Later in Stalag Luft III where fifty prisoners were shot during the big escape, I found out what actually happened. I was shot down on the 28th August and on 10 September the British, with the aim Luftwaffe up, sent some ships and aircraft towards France to pretend an invasion. And in Dulag the interrogators got orders quickly to concentrate on new prisoners while I was already fourteen days old. ANd my interrogator, probably from sympathy as fighter pilot to another, was really merciful to me. Out of fifty-one Czech airmen prisoners of war I was the only one who passed as British for the rest of the war. As far as I know two more passed as Canadians.

Stalag Luft III was a big camp for British and American air officers near Sagan. Now Polish Żagań about halfway between Breslau and Berlin. In January 1945 when the Russians were nearing Breslau we were moved on foot and then by train to a camp between Hamburg and Bremen. Then in April we were again moved East until we finished nearly back living on the farms. On 2nd May 1945 came to the farm a British tank and we were liberated. After a few days we were taken through some British camps and then flown to Britain to RAF station Cosford near Wolverhampton. I just managed to pass all formalities so that I could celebrate Victory Day in London.

Czech fighter squadrons were waiting for new Spitfire IX’s and went home by the end of July. I was in the party who was waiting for the last of the Spitfires and so I landed in Prague on 24th August 1945 after being abroad for six years and two months.

My father was sent to Buchenwald on the first day of the war. In 1942 he was again interrogated by Gestapo about my escape from Czechoslovakia and then in September 1942 was he, my mother, two brothers and two sisters sent to the concentration camp Satabohice. SO my family spent nearly twenty years in German concentration camps, but luckily we all met again in Summer of 1945.

My score is two Me109’s shot down, two Fw109’s damaged, one locomotive destroyed, nine locomotives damaged, one tow-boat destroyed, three tow-boats set on fire, and further boats, wagons aerodromes etc damaged. I have these war decorations: Distinguished Flying Cross, four times Czechoslovak War Cross of 1939, three times Medal for Gallantry [Za chrabrost před nepřítelem] and on French Croix de Guerre avec palme bronze.

_______________________________________________________________

Post WW2, S/Ldr Jiří Maňák remained in the Czechoslovak Air Force with 312 Squadron. He was the first pilot to touch down at the Squadrons new peacetime airbase at České Budějovice At the time, he was flying Spitfire LF IXE, TE566 (DU-A). His career at České Budějovice was rather brief. Later in 1945, Maňák moved to VLU Air Research Institute in Prague-Letnany where he was employed as test pilot. He flew a multitude of aircraft types including Czech-produced Bf 109s (S-99), Me 262 (S-92), Spitfires and many civilian types. He gained fame for his public aerobatic displays across Czechoslovakia, including low-level aerobatics in a Me 262.

Like many returning ex-RAF personnel in Czechoslovakia, Jiří Maňák eventually fell into disgrace after the Communist coup in 1948. In 1950 he was dismissed from the Czechoslovak Air Force and arrested 23 November 1950 for divulging classified military information and treason and held in custody until his trial held on 8 June 1951 when he was acquitted. Despite his acquittal, the Communist authorities continued their persecution in his work and personal life. They would not allow him to return to flying and instead allowed him to undertake menial employment working on a riverboat. He was partly ‘rehabilitated’ in 1964 and could join Czechoslovak national airline, ČSA, as a pilot. He retired in 1971 and finally, after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, he was fully rehabilitated.

Jiří Maňák, with fellow Czechoslovak airmen, Duxford, July 1990.

Colonel Jiří Maňák died on 29th December 1992 in Prague.

There is a memorial plaque in České Budějovice remembering him and also his father Jaroslav.

In the Černý Most District of Prague 14, a street is named in his honour:

In November 2017, his name, along with the names of some 2500 other Czechoslovak men and women who had served in the RAF during WW2, was unveiled at the Winged Lion Monument at Klárov, Prague.




Posted in Autobiography, Not Forgotton, Other RAF Squadrons | 4 Comments

Wellington byl jejich osud




Wellington byl jejich osud


Životní příběh Sgt Jaromíra Drmelky, pilota 311. bombardovací perutě RAF.

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Daniel Švec




Kniha vypráví životní příběh, popisuje osud, jeden z mnoha. Jeden z tisíců. Životní pouť pilota – letce. Jaromír Drmelka své první letecké krůčky začal v republice Československé. Díky zachovanému zápisníku letů se můžete v této knize dočíst, jak probíhal výcvik pilotů na konci 30. let. Jak se mohl člověk stát letcem, jaký byl systém výuky, kde mohl sloužit a na čem létat.

Cesta hlavního protagonisty po rozboření republiky a vzniku protektorátu vedla přes Polsko, kde se stal příslušníkem polských ozbrojených složek, přes východ až do Francie. Cestou prožil perné chvíle. Nekonečné ústupy, internaci. Ani ve Francii se poměry nezlepšily – zažil zde tábor v Agde.

Po pádu Francie se dostal do Anglie, vstoupil do RAF, kde se v závěru výcviku přecvičil na tamní letouny Wellingtony – stal se z něho bombardovací pilot a potkala ho zde i velká láska. Prožil ostrý nálet nad okupované území, začal brázdit s letounem nekonečné vodní plochy při „lovu ponorek“. Domů se ale nevrátil. Jedna taková hlídka se jemu a jeho osádce stala osudnou – 18. 8. 1942. Poslední zprávu vyslali: „Jsme napadeni…“ Od té doby se po nich slehla zem.

V knize nenajdete jen jeden osud. O svém životě promlouvají mnozí. Pomocí dochovaných zpráv z archivu, literatury. Kromě četných dobových fotografií jsou zde použity i cenné záznamy z dochovaného památníku Jaromíra Drmelky, do kterého mu jeho četní kolegové zapisovali a kreslili „něco na památku“.

Publisher:
Vydavatel
ISBN: 978-80-270-8715-0
Format:
Počet stran
Hardback, 200 pages
Vázaná kniha, 200 stran
Language:
Jazyk
Czech
Česky
Published:
Publikováno
15.01.2021.
Price:
Cena
900 Kč




Posted in 311 Sqd, Books | Leave a comment